The Day After: Outlasting Oregon State
As Bill Self said after Saturday night’s Kansas basketball win over Oregon State, those who witnessed the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks’ 82-67 win at Sprint Center saw the very best and the very worst of KU.
At least Self’s team, now 8-1, saved the entertaining portion for the final act. After scoring just 28 points in the first half and trailing by 11 at the break, the Jayhawks broke out of whatever funk they had contracted in Kansas City, Missouri, on Saturday and shot 21-for-32 in the final 20 minutes, when Wayne Selden Jr., Frank Mason III, Devonté Graham, Perry Ellis, Hunter Mickelson and Carlton Bragg played all of the meaningful minutes.
Self spoke in the days leading up to the Oregon State game about wanting to shorten his rotation, taking every opportunity he could to remind people how difficult (almost unreasonable) it is to play six big men. So we could’ve seen KU relying on eight or nine players instead of giving every player in the top 12 a shot when possible. After seeing Oregon State (6-2) easily handle the various lineups KU threw at the Beavers in the first half, however, Self took it to the extreme and stuck with his starting five and Bragg instead of mixing and matching. Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of that decision was the exclusion of KU’s typically trusted bench scorers, Brannen Greene and Svi Mykhailiuk, in the second half. Self made a point to show the players — and the fan base — that if certain guys are working better than others, he doesn’t mind keeping valuable players on the bench if that’s what it takes to get a win.
Now, will Self go to this extreme again? That will be something to watch in the weeks to come.
Three reasons to smile
1. Hunter Mickelson made the most of his on-the-court job interview. Self admitted he hadn’t given his senior big man much of an opportunity to prove himself this season but that changed against Oregon State. Self seemed back to his old ways of preferring just about any big man but Mickelson in the first half, playing him only 4 minutes despite giving him the start. But Mickelson was so active early Self had to play him more in the second half and Mickelson responded with a 7-point, 6-rebound effort in 14 total minutes. One of the things Kansas has lacked since the days of Jeff Withey is a rim protector, and Mickelson gave KU a little of that, too, with 2 swats.
2. Wayne Selden Jr. continued his ridiculous offensive tear through the non-conference. As he started showing this past summer at the World University Games and continued to do to begin his junior season, Selden proved he has more confidence as a scorer now than he ever did during his first two seasons. Selden knocked down 5 of his 8 3-pointers against the Beavers, bringing his running season total to 30-for-50 (60% from deep). His 22-point effort upped his scoring average to 16.6 points. Selden now seems as reliable a scorer as Ellis — which no one would’ve thought headed into this year.
3. The Jayhawks handled Oregon State’s defensive pressure. Led by Gary Payton II and his 23 steals entering the game, OSU averaged 7.8 swipes before facing Kansas. The Beavers only came up with 2 takeaways against the Jayhawks, who had 11 turnovers in the win, and Payton left with a goose egg in that category (though he played well enough to put up 13 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists). It’s difficult for opponents to take the ball away from KU when guys like Mason, Graham and Selden are handling the ball.
Three reasons to sigh
1. Likely the best NBA prospect on the Kansas roster, freshman big man Cheick Diallo didn’t play a single minute in the second half vs. Oregon State. Self considered using the 6-foot-9 freshman instead of Bragg, but thought Diallo couldn’t switch screens well enough on the perimeter to give KU the defensive look the coach wanted to implement. As a result, a big who many considered one of the most talented freshmen in the country coming into this season only played 7 minutes, scoring 2 points and pulling down a pair of rebounds. Diallo hasn’t yet reached his potential. A major reason for that is he’s just behind everybody else, due to the NCAA fiasco that kept him from playing early in the season. So when you sigh about Diallo, remember there are certainly better days ahead for the KU big man from Mali, Africa.
2. KU beat Oregon State in points in the paint, 34-28, but that number could have been much bigger. In the first half in particular, the Jayhawks struggled to finish inside. Drew Eubanks, a 6-foot-10 forward, just played active, smart defense around the rim and the Jayhawks, as they often have the past couple of years, failed to score over length. Kansas missed 9 layups in the first half — reminding everyone that Kansas can still run into scoring issues when its opponent has length inside.
3. Kansas still hasn’t become a great rebounding team, a characteristic that typically goes with winning basketball games. KU edged OSU 32-31 on the glass. To look at it another way — the way Self says he prefers — Oregon State missed 31 field goals and 6 free throws. That equals 37 opportunities for a defensive rebound. KU came away with 24 defensive rebounds — that’s a defensive rebounding percentage of 64.8%. For KU to continue to grow (and get more opportunities to push the pace with its three guards), the Jayhawks need to start controlling the glass.
One for the road
KU’s win over Oregon State…
Made Kansas 2-0 against the Pac-12 this season and 196-73 all-time vs. teams from the Pac-12
Made KU 28-6 at Sprint Center and 213-80 in games played in Kansas City
Improved Bill Self’s record at Kansas to 360-79.
It’s fall semester finals time, so the Jayhawks get a full week off from game action before returning to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday for a 1 p.m. meeting with Montana, which apparently will double as a gigantic ugly sweater party.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Oregon State
- Less is more: Shortened rotation propels KU
- Column: Carlton Bragg makes his case for minutes
- Oliver Luck admits Cheick Diallo case dragged on
- Jayhawks improve to 28-6 at Sprint Center
- Unexpected lift not enough for Oregon State
- Jayhawks bounce back in K.C.
- Keegan Ratings: Frank Mason keys KU comeback